Differential treatment of specific nationalities in detention

United Kingdom

Country Report: Differential treatment of specific nationalities in detention Last updated: 14/03/22


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From time to time the Home Office announces that removals of refused asylum seekers to particular countries are suspended. This is rare and there are no such concessions currently in force. The only one in the last ten years was in relation to Zimbabwe, but this is no longer in force. When there is such a concession in force, refused asylum seekers from that country become eligible to apply for a specific form of support, known as “Section 4 support” and which covers accommodation and non-cash support (see section on Reception Conditions).[1]

The response to a political / humanitarian crisis can also be through immigration routes. Immigration visa concessions have been authorised by Ministers on an annual basis; the latest one in relation to Syrian nationals is dated 1st March 2020[2] and a new one relating to Afghans was introduced in January 2022[3]. The concession applies to those nationals already in the UK with valid visas who may be able to avoid the usual conditions when extending or switching to another category.

The Upper Tribunal (IAC) has the power to make findings of fact which constitute binding ‘country guidance’ for other cases. Depending on whether these issues are brought before the tribunal in a particular case, there may from time to time be binding country guidance about the impact of a crisis. Currently there is a country guidance case which says that, due to the high levels of repression in Syria, any forced returnee from the UK including refused asylum seekers would face a real risk of arrest and detention and of serious mistreatment during that detention.[4] This is reflected in the Home Office country guidance for its caseworkers.[5]

From time to time the Home Office may accept that as a matter of fact there is no safe route of return for certain refused asylum seekers. This may be as a result of country guidance from the Tribunal or as a result of the Home Office’s own factual findings. This qualifies the asylum seekers for a specific form of support (see section on Reception Conditions) but does not in itself entail a grant of status.

When considering the treatment of particular caseloads at first instance, it is worth noting that the countries with some of the highest success rates at appeal during 2020 were:

Appeal success rates for key nationalities: 2021
Country of origin Successful appeals Success rate
Iran 184 68%
El Salvador 57 68%
Afghanistan 111 64%
Ethiopia 76 64%
Albania 119 57%

Source: Home Office. Withdrawn appeals not included.

In 2021 there were 1,233 grants of refugee status to Syrians, and the overall refugee status rate was 96%.10 individuals were refused on 3rd country grounds. Although data on disputed nationality are not published, we understand that a proportion of refused applicants from countries with very high refugee recognition rates will include those whose claimed nationality is disputed. Revised guidance on this issue was published in 2017.[6]

The first specific resettlement programme was announced in January 2014; this had no specific quota. In September 2015 the government committed to resettle 20,000 Syrians by the end of the parliament in 2020. This quota had been reached by the end of February 2021; the delay largely being caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic. 1,587 refugees were resettled in 2021, 71% of them from Syria.  In June 2019 the then Home Secretary committed to resettling 5,000 refugees in the year following the end of the current programme (from April 2020).[7]  .

In March 2017 the Home Secretary announced that from 1 July 2017 people who have been resettled would be granted Refugee Status and those already here under a resettlement programme would be allowed to convert their status to recognise them as refugees.[8] In July 2017 the Home Secretary announced that people of any nationality fleeing Syria would be eligible for resettlement, if they fulfilled the other criteria. [9]

The government launched a Community Sponsorship scheme as part of the VPRS programme. There are strict criteria for becoming a sponsor, including the type of organisation that can apply and the need to be approved by the local authority before applying to the Home Office. Guidance was issued at the same time as the scheme was launched.[10]

The government also committed to resettling an additional 3,000 individuals under a ‘children at risk’ programme. In partnership with UNHCR, the UK brought children from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region; a minority of whom are expected to be unaccompanied. The government announced the programme in response to calls to bring children from Europe. The scheme was closed at the end of February 2021 when all the quota had been resettled.

An Afghan resettlement scheme (ACRS) was also announced, firstly in August but with details in January 2022. The scheme will be different from previous schemes; only one of three pathways into the ACRS will be via referrals from UNHCR; the remaining pathways will not be for recognised refugees but rather those brought directly from Afghanistan; either as part of Operation Pitting in August 2021 or subsequently, though mechanisms not yet detailed[11].

Information about the funding to local authorities to enable them to support resettled refugees is publicly available.[12]


[1]  Home Office, Asylum support, Section 4 policy and support, available at: http://bit.ly/1Ht8SBE.

[2]  Visa concessions for Syrian nationals Home Office, 2020 https://bit.ly/3fLAw6U

[3]  Visa concessions for Afghan nationals January 2022 https://bit.ly/3AkoCua

[4]  Upper Tribunal, KB (Syria) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] UKUT 00426.

[5]  Home Office Country Policy and Information note, Syria: the Syrian civil war https://bit.ly/3rErHRH

[6]   Home Office, Nationality; disputed, unknown and other cases, October 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2F8ky2f

[7]  New global resettlement scheme for refugees announced, June 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2IhUGoe.

[8] Secretary of State for the Home Department, ‘Statement to Parliament’, 22 March 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2DLo4QG

[9]   Secretary of State for the Home Department, ‘Resettlement: Written statement’, 3 July 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2DyHeMZ.

[10]  Home Office, Community sponsorship, 19 July 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/29VQxZI.

[11]  Afghan citizens Resettlement Scheme, Home Office January 2022.

[12]  UK resettlement programmes funding to local authorities, Home Office 2021 https://bit.ly/32iRkPq.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection